How Churches in America’s Least Religious Region Talk About Sexuality

Sarah Eekhoff Zylstra | November 3, 2016


Four Massachusetts churches filed a lawsuit against the state last month, arguing that public accommodation laws inhibit their religious practices. The Massachusetts legislature had added “gender identity” as a protected class, which the attorney general and state commission on discrimination interpreted to mean that churches must open bathroom facilities to people based on their self-identified gender identity.

The suit is the latest sally in an area widely acknowledged as the least religious in the country. Five of the six states that make up New England—Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Vermont, Maine, and Connecticut—sit at the bottom of Pew Research Group’s scale of most religious states. Two of them—New Hampshire and Massachusetts—are tied for dead last.

In other words, people living in the Northeast scored the lowest on believing in God, attending church, praying, and believing religion is very important. Only 9 percent of adults in Massachusetts belong to an evangelical denomination. Yet there are also signs of growth. The Southern Baptist Convention in particular has planted more than 115 New England churches—that’s one-third of its churches in the area—since 2010.

Allowing transgender people to use the bathroom of the gender with which they identify is the newest front in American culture’s conflict over sexuality…


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